We’ve yet to figure out what people actually think of Theo Van Gogh as a filmmaker â€” murdered by an Islamic extremist in 2004, the Dutch provocateur is best known as an uneasy martyr for free speech, one who was fond of inflammatory public statements, among them frequently referring to Muslims as geitenneukers: goat-fuckers. Only three of his films are available here on DVD, and two of those, the cynic in us feel obliged to point out, were released after his well-publicized death. This Steve Buscemi-directed remake of his 2003 "Interview" is the most exposure a Van Gogh film has received in the US; two more remakes are due to follow, with John Turturro and Stanley Tucci each stepping up to take the reigns.
"Buscemi’s talky, stagey ‘Interview’… doesn’t make much of a case for [Van Gogh] as an important or original artist," writes Andrew O’Hehir at Salon. Michael Koresky at indieWIRE counters that "while Van Gogh’s legacy as a controversial, anti-establishment, anticlerical thinker could be better benefited than from this puff piece in disguise, ‘Interview’ does provide director/leading man Buscemi and Sienna Miller with a dirty little playground on which to cavort and chew scenery."
The main observation being made about the film, which is essentially a two-character piece taking place in a Manhattan apartment, seems to be that Sienna Miller, playing a supposedly vapid soap star, turns out a surprisingly good performance. Nathan Rabin at the Onion AV Club lauds her "bewitchingly physical performance," while acknowledging that "the film never convincingly explains why Miller doesn’t just kick her sour, belligerent interrogator out, except perhaps for a stubborn unwillingness to let the ‘interview’ end until she’s secured a distinct moral victory." Owen Gleiberman at Entertainment Weekly declares that the film should lay to rest "any doubts as to whether Sienna Miller is a gifted actress," and that it’s "a fierce and resonant tribute" to Van Gogh. David Edelstein at New York, positively enchanted by the film, calls her "a stupendous actress," and adds that "Good writers, good directors, good actors, know the change of beat is the pulse of any scene. Buscemi is a brilliant writer, director, and actor, and each beat in Interview is crystalline."
Manohla Dargis at the New York Times notes the film’s "obvious drift, the sham setup, the dubious details (surely a tabloid
favorite would drape her windows more carefully) and the dreariness of
the digital- video colors and tones," but still finds plenty of worth in both performances:
Mr. Buscemi always steals his scenes with stealth, nibbling where other actors chew and gulp. His evident lack of vanity is its own kind of vanity, one that is well matched by Ms. Millerâ€™s utter confidence. For once, she holds the screen, not just decorates it.
Elsewhere, Nick Schager at Slant acknowledges that the film "doesn’t lead to any particularly astute conclusions" about the relationship between journalists and their celebrity subjects, but that "the two lead performances remain rock solid, and Buscemi’s direction is consistently invigorating." And Jim Ridley at the Village Voice finds that "Interview" is "the least concrete and most artificial of Buscemi’s films," but that it’s fitting: "for these characters, there’s no real life anymoreâ€”just a floating acting exercise that shifts from public (Miller nails feigned sincerity to the couple whose restaurant table she commandeers) to private."
+ "Interview" (Sony Pictures Classics)